Fred’s Head from APH, a Blindness Blog

Fred’s Head, offered by the American Printing House for the Blind, contains tips, techniques, tutorials, in-depth articles, and resources for and by blind or visually impaired people. Our blog is named after the legendary Fred Gissoni, renowned for answering a seemingly infinite variety of questions on every aspect of blindness.

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Monday, April 30, 2007

Book Features Photographs by Blind Teenagers

Chronicle Books has published "Seeing Beyond Sight," a book by visual artist and social entrepreneur Tony Deifell, which features photographs taken by blind and visually impaired teenagers.

A rare book of visual art, "Seeing Beyond Sight" provides inspiration, not only to the visually impaired community, but also to anyone who has ever considered what it means to see and perceive the world.

For order information, call 800-722-6657, or click this link to visit

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Night Reader

No, I didn't say Knight Rider, I said Night Reader. You guys are so 80s. Anyway, this device was designed for those who can't sleep without doing a bit of reading. The Night Reader Book Cover allows one to continue reading without bothering anyone after the lights go out.

How cool would this be for those who have low vision? How many times have you needed a little extra light in the library or classroom?Just slip this attractive book cover onto your favorite novel, pull up the periscoping light, and you will have the luxury of having your own personal lamp to read by.

The Night Reader's white light is restful on the eyes and its adjustable neck and pivoting head allows you to shift the light anywhere you need it. The Book cover light contains energy-efficient LEDs that last an incredible 100,000 hours, never needing replacement!

Click this link to purchase the Night Reader.

Independent Visually Impaired Enterprisers - (IVIE)

Independent Visually Impaired Enterprisers - (IVIE) is an affiliate organization of the American Council of the Blind, (ACB). Their members include a wide range of blind and visually impaired business owners and entrepreneurs.

IVIE is a rich source of information on business ideas, strategies, assistive technology and networking. Have you ever considered starting your own small business? Perhaps, IVIE members can help.

For any questions, or more information about IVIE, please click this link to contact Ardis Bazyn at

Article Source:

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

What is the Retina?

We hear a lot about the retina, but what is it? I found the following explanation on The Foundation for Retinal Research website and wanted to share it with you.

The retina, as the brain, is part of the Central Nervous System. It is a thin, transparent tissue that is attached inside the back part of the eye. Its main function is to capture light images, begin their processing and pass them down the optic nerve to the brain. Structurally, the retina is stratified, i.e., most cells are in distinct bands or layers. In fact, one can think of the retina as a layer cake. The following is a short description of the important cell types of the retina.

Photoreceptor Cells

The most important cell is the photoreceptor neuron. Its main function is to capture the light energy in a visual image and convert it to an electrical response. This is done is a specialized part of the photoreceptor cells called the outer segment. Visual proteins are concentrated in the outer segment. These are the proteins that actually capture the light energy. Once the photoreceptor neuron converts the photic energy to an electrophysiological signal, it passes this signal on to secondary neurons in the next layer of the retina (e.g., bipolar cells) and ultimately to the brain.

There are two main types of photoreceptor cells in most animal retinas. These are called rods and cones. Rod cells are, as the name implies, rod-shaped. They are designed to mainly function in dim light and in peripheral vision. Cone cells are more cone shaped. They serve in central vision, bright-light vision and in color vision. There is a concentration of cone cells in a highly specialized, region of the retina called the macula. Most of our central and sharp vision uses macular cone cells. Interestingly, the photoreceptor cells point towards the back of the eye, necessitating light to pass through all the other retinal layers before striking the photoreceptors.

Retinal Pigment Epithelium (RPE) Cells

Juxtaposed to the layer of photoreceptor cells is a single cell layer of RPE cells. Perhaps, think of them as frosting on the retinal "cake". They are tightly intertwined with the outer segments of the photoreceptor cells. The RPE cell layer functions in maintaining proper operation of the photoreceptor cells which are thought to have the highest metabolic activity of any cell type in the human body. Thus, RPE cells bring nutrients and oxygen to photoreceptor cells and remove waste products. RPE cells also are heavily pigmented (melanin granules), allowing for capture of stray light. Last but not least, RPE cells are intrinsic to vision in that they participate in the visual cycle with photoreceptor cells. They store the vitamin A (retinoids) needed in vision and also contain enzymes that chemically alter vitamin A to forms used in photoreceptor outer segments in the visual process. When RPE cells are not functioning properly, photoreceptor cells are usually quickly affected resulting in retinal degeneration.

On the other side of the RPE cell layer from the photoreceptors is a dense network of blood vessels called the choroid. It is from this blood vessel system that RPE cells get the nutrients to pass on to photoreceptor cells.

Other Retinal Cell Types

Beneath the photoreceptor cells are several stratified cell layers. Within these layers are secondary neurons such as bipolar cells, amacrine cells and ganglion cells. These cells are all connected through structures called synapses. The function of these cells is to begin the processing and integration of the visual signals. These signals are finally passed to the brain through the optic nerve. The optic nerve consists of many long, thin processes (axons) of ganglion cells.

Leber's Congenital Amaurosis (LCA)

Message: HI Fred! I am new to this---trying to find information about a condition called "Lemurs" not sure I am even spelling it right, but that's what it sounds like. It's apparently a genetic condition, passed through the mother, only to male children, that causes significant vision impairment, the onset of which usually occurs around age 20-30. Know where I can get more info? Thanks so much. location: North Carolina

Leber's Congenital Amaurosis (LCA) is a rare, hereditary disorder that leads to retinal dysfunction and visual impairment at an early age, often from birth. Of all the retinal degenerations, LCA has the earliest age of onset and can be the most severe.

LCA bears the name of Dr. Theodore Leber who first described the condition. The term amaurosis refers to any condition of blindness or marked loss of vision, especially loss of vision in which there is little or no change in the appearance of the eye itself. LCA is sometimes confused with another condition termed Leber's Hereditary Optic Neuropathy (LHON) that also leads to visual impairment. However, LCA is a separate and distinct disease.

The clinical signs of a disease are collectively called the phenotype. Besides vision loss, other signs of LCA are nystagmus (roving eye), sluggish or nonexistent pupillary response and, in some cases, eye rubbing (oculo-digital reflex). In a smaller number of cases, there can be lens opacity (cataract), cornea abnormality (keratoconus), aversion to light (photophobia), hearing impairment and possibly developmental delays. Retinal blood vessels can become thin and narrow and there can be pigmentary changes that an Ophthalmologist can see within the eye.

A key feature of LCA is an abnormally low electrical response of the retina. This can be measured by the Ophthalmologist using a method called Electroretinography. In this procedure, the retina is stimulated by light and the electrical response pattern is recorded on an electroretinogram (ERG) and compared with ERG responses from normal subjects. Some LCA types are progressive in that they become more severe with age and some are stationary in that there is little change noted with time.

Article Source:
The Foundation for Retinal Research:

The AFB site also gives an online reference for more information on this condition: I hope this helps, and thanks for the question.

Click this link to visit the American Foundation for the Blind's Glossary of Eye Conditions page:

The Foundation for Retinal Research

The Foundation for Retinal Research is committed to finding treatments and cures for Retinal Degenerative Diseases and supporting the lives of affected families.

The Foundation for Retinal Research (FRR) was founded in 1998 at a time when very little was known or published about Leber's Congenital Amaurosis (LCA). Families affected by Leber's Congenital Amaurosis had a difficult time acquiring information and making connections to help them understand the eye disorder. The Foundation has bridged the gap between families and research. Their website offers people the most current medical and research information available, connects them to other families and provides links to services related to the field of blindness.

For more information, contact:

Foundation for Retinal Research
1985 Dale Avenue
Highland Park, IL 60035
Phone: 847-432-5101
Fax: 847-432-0545

Monday, April 23, 2007

Restaurant Menus That Talk

Menus That Talk is a portable, compact device, approximately the size of a DVD case, that speaks to restaurant guests, describing selected food items from the hand-held unit's illuminated buttons.

A lighted array of buttons displays major menu categories like DRINKS, APPETIZERS and SEAFOOD. Guests simply press a button corresponding to a category and hear brief descriptions of cuisine, wine suggestions, sides and prices. At the touch of a button, Menus That Talk describes what's for dinner.

No habla ingles? No problem: Just press the language button for Spanish or another language. No more squinting in dim light or turning page after page of complex printed menus. No more awkward conferences with busy waiters.

Ready to order? A Service button pages your waiter. For the visually disabled, the buttons are also imprinted in Braille. Guests who can't see the button names and don't use Braille can browse the menu simply by tapping buttons to hear categories. Another tap brings up the details.

In noisy restaurants or for the hearing-impaired, Menus That Talk features a detachable hand-held earphone. The earphone also interfaces with Tele-coil equipped hearing-aids.

Menus That Talk serves the needs and comforts of all restaurant patrons with its simple layout, ease of use and ability to deliver voice anywhere in the restaurant. Benefits for the restaurants include streamlining menu selections, reducing server assistance time and bringing the menu to a larger, appreciative audience.

For more information, contact:

Susan Perry, President, CEO
Phone: 305-255-9600

Richard Herbst, VP Marketing
Cell: 786-449-9351

Menus That Talk:

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Connie's Kitchen: Confessions of a Low Vision Cook

When a cook is blind or partially sighted, safety and organization become crucial issues. Accurate cooking demands full use of all remaining senses. For this reason, the lack of complete concentration during meal preparation can result in over-or under-cooking food, burning yourself, or creating messy accidents to be cleaned up later.


  • When handling hot baking ware, use oven mitts long enough to cover your hands and lower arms completely. Use an audible timer and be sure you have set it correctly. Organize your ingredients, and develop a labeling system so containers that feel alike will not confuse you.

  • If you have any residual vision, use a magnifier to read food labels, even if you are positive as to what is in your hand. Before serving a meal, double check to be sure all stove controls are in the off position.

  • While burner covers are very attractive, they are not heat resistant; so if you have them, remove them from the stove before turning on a burner or oven.

This abstract of the article by Connie Weadon first appeared in Dialogue 34 (Summer 1995) and is reprinted with permission from the publisher. Dialogue magazine is published in braille, large print, 4-track cassette and IBM compatible 3.5-inch diskette.

Don't Forget the Attachment!

If you are sending an email with an attachment, add the attachment first, compose the message, then add email addresses to the send line. Now there's no chance you'll have to send the ever-popular "whoops, forgot to attach the file" follow-up message.

It's a good practice to always put the email addresses of the recipients in last, to ensure that a runaway enter key press or mouse click won't fire off the message before its complete.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Keeping Track of Breast Feeding

I received this great tip from a visually impaired mother of four.

Amid the confused haze of sleep deprivation that comes with the care of an infant, a breastfeeding mother may forget which side she used last. If faced with this problem, simply place a hair band or bracelet around the wrist.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Recuva: An Accessible File Recovery Utility

In more than one instance, I've been in need of a decent file restore utility, you know, for those times when you like to use the shift key with the delete because you just know you'll never need that file again?

Recuva (pronounced Recover, according to their website, is "a freeware Windows utility to restore files that have been accidentally deleted from your computer. This includes files emptied from the Recycle bin as well as images and other files that have been deleted by user error from digital camera memory cards or MP3 players. It will even bring back files that have been deleted by bugs, crashes and viruses!" Even if you think you'll never need it, go ahead and download it and put it away somewhere. I guarantee a time will come when you'll be glad you did.

Click this link to visit and download Recuva.

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